For an additional effect, feel free to listen to this while reading this week’s article. Go get ’em, Tigers!
Irony. If there was one word to describe this game, this series, this postseason run, it would have to be irony. The intensity the Tigers displayed as well as the emotional fanfare that was showcased really embodied the spirit of Detroit.
First, and foremost, the Tigers and Yankees seemed pretty equal going into Game 4 with the Tigers’ sending Max Scherzer to the mound and the Yankees countered with ace CC Sabathia. If the Yankees were going to take a game in this series, they had their best shot tonight. However, the Tigers did something they didn’t do the whole series: score a first inning run. Who else, but Delmon Young? Young delivered a two out single that scored Omar Infante and the Tigers took a 1-0 lead. Sabathia was being worked the entire time through 3 innings while Scherzer continued to mow down the Yankee lineup with ease.
Avisail Garcia drove in another run in the third with a bases-loaded infield single. The very next inning, Miguel Cabrera and Jhonny Peralta slammed two-run home runs each to put the Tigers ahead 6-0, chasing Sabathia from the game. A pair of home runs late from Austin Jackson and, once again, Jhonny Peralta gave them 8 runs despite a run off of Scherzer before his departure. Scherzer would finish with 10 strikeouts in only 5 2/3 innings pitched and got the win.
I saw a lot of things in this game and many of them bring us full circle, in a sense. You’ll get what I mean in a moment:
- Delmon Young. Who would’ve thought that the Tiger DH who got himself in trouble with the law back in the spring, in New York, would become the latest American League Championship Series MVP? Young was the epitome of inconsistency during the season and the Tiger lineup looked really thin with him behind Fielder. However, when it counted the most, Young stepped up to the challenge and drove in as many runs as New York did the entire series (6). It was something that no one saw coming, not even the most dedicated of Tiger fans. (On a humorous note, I thought it was a little bit of a stretch to call Young a “class act” during his MVP trophy presentation by AL Representative Jackie Autry. As much as I like Delmon, I think that same thought went through a lot of Tiger fans’ minds tonight.)
- Prince Fielder. Back in January, with the sudden and tragic loss of Victor Martinez to a freak knee injury, general manager Dave Dombrowski made the offseason splash in the American League and signed the Milwaukee Brewers’ free agent first baseman, Prince Fielder. Fielder has spent the season giving likely MVP Miguel Cabrera protection in the lineup and very nearly having a career year himself (.313, 30, 108). I thought it was only fitting that with many experts and Tiger fans alike picking the Tigers to win the American League pennant, that Prince would be the one to catch the final out. It only seemed fitting that our goal of getting to the World Series was officially made a reality by Fielder, the addition to the team that has made the most impact.
- The Tigers Rotation. I really don’t think nearly as much credit was given to the Tiger rotation, not just in this series but during the entire season. Admittedly, pretty much everyone penciled in Verlander for at least 17+ wins, an ERA under 2.50, and at least 225 strikeouts. Beyond that, the rotation was kind of a toss up. I believe Max Scherzer took, not one, not two, but three steps forward as a starting pitcher this year. His arm slot, though not mechanically sound, is deceiving to hitters and generated the majority of his strikeouts throughout the season. Doug Fister was the latest Tiger to join the team midseason via a trade and have immense success (Woodie Fryman, Doyle Alexander etc.). However, many did not expect Fister to be able to continue his winning ways from the spring, through the summer, and into the fall. Although slowed by injury early on, Fister rebounded to put up equally impressive second half numbers (9-2 record) to help clinch the American League Central Division. Anibal Sanchez wasn’t even on the staff at the beginning of the season and when Dombrowski traded for him along with second baseman Omar Infante for top pitching prospect, Jacob Turner, it looked like a bad deal for Detroit. Yet much like Fister, a year before him, Sanchez has thrived under pitching coach Jeff Jones and is yet another weapon the Tigers used this postseason to secure the American League pennant. While both Drew Smyly and Rick Porcello did not start games in the postseason, it would be a grave injustice to forget their contributions during the season. Smyly showed flashes of brilliance way beyond his years and reminds me of a young Steve Avery. Porcello, though not much older than Smyly, is a seasoned vet who struggled this season but not enough to be ineffective. Both have contributed as bullpen relievers and we hope to see them help the team in the World Series.
- Phil Coke. It has truly come full circle for Phil Coke. With the struggles of closer Jose Valverde, Jim Leyland decided not to fully address who was the heir apparent for the job. Enter Phil Coke. The lefthander, a 2009 World Champion as a Yankee, got sweet revenge against his former teammates and came up big as the de facto closer for Detroit. I don’t think Detroiters will forget for some time the image of Coke slamming his mitt on the infield grass and screaming with what could only be postseason intensity.
- Management. As much as Jim Leyland has been stressing the fact that “these wins are for the players”, one can’t deny the fact that its for everyone. The fact that the ol’ Smoky Skipper wells up every time the Tigers crack the bubbly speaks for him as more than a manager, it speaks for him as a man. He truly cares about his team and everything that goes with it. That includes the fans, upper management, the entire city, and even those who sadly aren’t here with us anymore (yes, I’m referring to Sparky and Ernie. I wish we could’ve enjoyed a Tiger Triple Crown, a dominant pitching staff, and another World Series berth together one last time. Rest in peace, you two). Mike Ilitch has done everything in his power to turn this organization around and surrounding himself with the some of the best minds in baseball and I’m happy to say that he has his best chance at fulfilling his dream of hoisting the World Series trophy.
- Joe Girardi. Words cannot express how bad I feel for Mr. Girardi. This man has probably experienced the worst week of his life. Less than a week ago, his beloved father died. The same man who introduced Girardi to the game of baseball, who encouraged him to play, who watched him play and then manage in the Major Leagues, is suddenly and tragically absent from his life. Never mind that he is the manager of the Yankees, the organization with the least amount of room for error and the most demanding fan base in, probably, all of sports. He takes all of this in stride and somehow manages to move on even after losing his best player (Derek Jeter) in the conclusion of Game 1. If his team had a clue at the plate, it might not be so bad but with a disappointing result against the same team that has now eliminated the Yankees three times in the last six years, this offseason will leave a bad taste in the Yankees’ mouths. Overall, this is not the way Girardi wanted to have to deal with his father’s death and this is not the way he wanted his offseason to begin. My heart truly goes out to a man with that much strength. New York might not appreciate him as a manager but I would hope that they’d at least appreciate him as a human being.
Overall, this was an excellent series. Detroit’s pitching was the story of the last week and hopefully, it can continue over into the Fall Classic. We’ll be keeping an eye on the NLCS and I’ll give a breakdown of the Series once the stage is set.
GO TIGERS! 2012 AMERICAN LEAGUE CHAMPIONS